Breitbach relishing challenge at MU
BY MIKE GROSS, Sports Columnist
Millersville University football faces a tall mountain.
It is convinced that Greg Breitbach is the man to lead the climb.
The first steps will be taken today.
MU introduced Breitbach, who has been offensive coordinator at the University of North Dakota, as the school's 21st head football coach at a press conference Friday.
"There's tremendous room for growth here,'' Breitbach said in remarks before a crowd of about 60 people at the Student Memorial Center on the MU campus.
"We intend to make this university proud.''
Breitbach replaces Greg Colby, who resigned in February after winning 11 of 55 games over five seasons. Colby is now the defensive line coach at Illinois.
North Dakota went 5-6 last season, but 46-22 in Breitbach's tenure.
There were 70 applications, according to Dr. Aminta Breaux, vice president of student affairs, who made the final hiring decision.
"That tells me people see potential here,'' Breaux said.
A hiring committee chose six finalists, all of whom came to MU for interviews with the committee, the administration, the players and, in "public forum'' meetings, with MU alumni and fans.
After that process the committee gave Breaux, who also hired Colby, three unranked names. She chose Breitbach.
The players concur, according to senior linebacker Jordan Rigby.
"He was the first one to come in (for a public forum), and he set the bar very high,'' said Rigby, a scholarship player from Silver Spring, Md.
"When he came into the room, he had a presence. He gave every one of us a sheet of paper that explained what goes into a successful program. None of the other ones did anything like that.''
Rigby said he's spoken to enough of his teammates to know that, "he is definitely our first choice.''
Breitbach has coached at the Division I level (North Dakota), Division II (also North Dakota, prior to 2010), Division III (Wisconsin-Stevens Point), and NAIA (Montana-Western).
He eventually was offensive coordinator at all three schools, and seems like a passing-game guy.
North Dakota threw for 660 yards in a single game this year and finished in the top 20 nationally (FCS) in scoring offense, passing offense and passing efficiency.
He said Friday he would install his offense this spring and call the plays.
The composition of Breitbach's staff is still to be determined. Two North Dakota assistants, Jeff Richter and George Love, are following Breitbach here.
Ron Rankin, Millersville's defensive coordinator, ran the program on an interim basis. Offensive coordinator has been a half-time position, something Breaux said Breit-bach brought up in a meeting Friday with Breaux and Dr. John Anderson, MU's new president.
"I do have a framework in mind,'' Breitbach said, regarding his staff. "That will be part of what we do this spring.''
He has no choice but to hit the ground running. Spring practice begins today. Breitbach started an MU football Twitter account Thursday, and by Friday morning there were more than 100 followers.
What many of those followers want to know: Is there going to be enough scholarship money available for MU to compete in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference?
MU's allotment of about seven scholarship equivalencies is near the bottom of the PSAC and far below the 36 the NCAA allows Division II schools.
When Breitbach took questions/comments from the audience Friday, a former player, Troy Smith, said, "We need the backing of the administration. There's no excuse why we don't have 36 scholarships.''
"I do agree with you about scholarships,'' Breitbach said. "But that's a long-term process. It's not gonna happen in 15 minutes. I have been given assurances, across the board, from President Anderson. I didn't accept this job, didn't come to Pennsylvania with my family, without having confidence that we can run a process the right way.''
It's possible that Breitbach is coming to the PSAC at a good time.
Resurgent national power Indiana, along with big scholarship spenders Mercyhurst and California, are in the Western Division.
In the East, Bloomsburg coaching legend Danny Hale retired in February, and Kutztown coach Ray Monica, who guided the Golden Bears to the NCAA playoffs in 2010 and 2011, resigned in January to move to Arkansas Tech.
(Monica was replaced by KU offensive coordinator Drew Folmar, a former MU quarterback.)
Shippensburg won 12 games, and the PSAC East title, last season with roughly the same scholarship funding as MU.
"The lack of scholarship money, the lack of this or the lack of that will not be an excuse,'' Breitbach said. "I'm not going to listen (to skeptics). There has to be a culture change and a mindset change. There has to be a sense of urgency.''